FG Grants TV/Radio Stations 60% Debt Forgiveness

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Lai Mohammed

* Debtors to pay existing 40% in three months

Iyobosa Uwugiaren in Abuja

The federal government has granted 60 percent debt forgiveness for all debtor broadcast stations in the country, applying only to functional licenced terrestrial radio and television stations.

The criterion for enjoying the debt forgiveness is for the debtor stations to pay 40 percent of their existing debt within the next three months.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who disclosed this at a press conference in Abuja on Monday, along with the Acting Director-General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Prof. Armstrong Idachaba, said that any station that is unable to pay the balance of 40 percent indebtedness within the three months’ window shall forfeit the opportunity to enjoy the stated debt forgiveness.

The minister stated that the federal government’s good gesture was to ensure financial sustainability among broadcast stations in the country amidst global impact of COVID-19.

‘’The existing license fee is further discounted by 30 per cent for all Open Terrestrial Radio and Television services effective July 10th, 2020. The debt forgiveness shall apply to functional licensed terrestrial radio and television stations only.

‘’The debt forgiveness and discount shall not apply to pay TV service operators in Nigeria. The effective date of the debt forgiveness shall be July 10th 2020 to October 6th, 2020.

‘’As you know, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected all sectors of the nation’s economy. The Broadcast Industry has been particularly hard-hit due to falling revenues occasioned by the dwindling adverts and sponsored programmes, in the wake of the pandemic’’, the minister added.

The minister of information and culture recently received the officials and other representatives of the Broadcasting Organizations of Nigeria (BON), who made a comprehensive presentation on the effects of the pandemic on the industry and sought critical interventions by federal and state governments.

The Post-Covid-19 Initiatives Committee for the creative industry, which the ministry set up to help mitigate the negative effects of the pandemic on the creative industry as a whole, has submitted its report, which contained recommendations that are expected to benefit all component parts of the larger creative industry.

According to Mohammed, ‘’Without prejudice to those recommendations, I want to announce today a number of broadcast Industry-specific measures aimed at giving a lifeline to the industry which, though largely a business, continues to function as a critical social service of sorts, which is relevant to the information and enlightenment needs of the people.

‘’These measures are in addition to the two-month licence-fee waiver granted to terrestrial broadcast stations in the country by the NBC, as part of efforts to ease the negative effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the Broadcast Industry.’’

The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) revealed that many Nigerian radio and television stations remain indebted to the federal government to the tune of N7 billion in total, with many of the stations facing the reality that their licenses will not be renewed, in view of their indebtedness.

The minister added that the federal government made the interventions with a view to re-positioning the broadcast industry to play its critical role of promoting democracy and good governance in Nigeria, expecting that the sector will cash in on this unique opportunity to make itself an effective catalyst for national development.